Reviewed on: SoundStage! Solo, June 2019
I measured the Monoprice 24459 using a Clio 10 FW audio analyzer and a Neutrik NL-1 Minilyzer. I measured only the unbalanced output; for some reason I couldn’t figure out, the amp always went into protection mode when I connected the balanced output into a load resistor. Note that my focus with these tests is on measurements that confirm these devices’ basic functionality.
This chart shows the Monolith 24459’s frequency response with 1mW output into a 32-ohm load using the coaxial digital input. (Measurements with 250- and 600-ohm loads produced effectively identical results.) With the Normal digital-to-analog (DAC) filter, response measured -0.057dB at 20Hz, -0.227dB at 20kHz, and -1.470dB at 40kHz. With the Slow1 filter, the numbers were -0.057dB, -0.307dB, and -6.007dB, respectively. With the Slow2 filter, the numbers were -0.060dB, -0.975dB, and -4.307dB, respectively. These measurements were taken with a 192kHz digital signal, which the coax input accepts, but the digital circuitry is brick-wall filtered at about 40kHz (consistent with Monoprice’s published frequency response), so the effective resolution is actually 96kHz. Note the +1.2dB ringing of the Normal filter at 37kHz. From a technical standpoint, this isn’t impressive, but it won’t be audible. The ringing nearly disappears with the Slow1 and Slow2 filters.
This chart shows the effect of the two different analog-to-digital converter’s filter settings on the frequency response. Both were measured with 1mW output into a 32-ohm load using the unbalanced analog input, with the DAC filter set to Normal. (Measurements with 250- and 600-ohm loads produced effectively identical results.) With the Normal analog-to-digital (ADC) filter, response measured -0.057dB at 20Hz, -0.067dB at 10kHz, and -0.344dB at 30kHz. With the Slow1 filter, the numbers were -0.010dB, -0.139dB, and -0.922dB, respectively. Thus, the difference between the two filters might be just barely audible. (I cite the response here at 10kHz and 30kHz instead of my usual 20kHz and 40kHz because of the slightly non-smooth characteristics of the response curves.)
This chart shows the unbalanced output of the Monoprice 24459 vs. total harmonic distortion (THD) into 32-, 250-, and 600-ohm loads. Note that Monoprice’s power ratings are specified at 16, 32, 150, 300, and 600 ohms, so some of my measurements are not directly comparable. Output into 32 ohms was 1420mW at 0.5% THD and 1475mW at 1% THD. Output into 250 ohms was 183mW at 0.5% THD and 190mW at 1% THD. Output into 600 ohms was 77mW at 0.5% THD and 79mW at 1% THD. (Monoprice’s ratings are 1360mW into 32 ohms, 150mW into 300 ohms, and 73mW into 600 ohms, all with THD unspecified). These are very high numbers for a headphone amp, indicating that the Monolith 24459 should have no problem driving any headphones currently available.
Here you can see the harmonic distortion spectrum and noise floor of the Monolith 24459, referenced to 6.295Vrms (1.24W) output at 600Hz into 32 ohms. (I used this odd output number as a reference because, as best I can tell, the amplifier stage just barely starts to distort before the unit’s analog-to-digital converter stage clips. Any higher and the distortion becomes very high; any lower and there’s not enough distortion to see the harmonic content.) Harmonic distortion is predominantly odd-order, which is much more audible than even-order distortion, but with the 3rd harmonic at -78.2dBFS and the 5th harmonic at -79.4dBFS (both just slightly over 0.01% distortion), and the distortion occurring only at an extremely high output level, I think the chances of any listener actually hearing this are zero. Note also that the noise floor was generally at about -120dBFS. This is excellent performance.
I measured the output impedance of the unbalanced headphone jack at less than 0.5 ohm, which is as low as I could measure without triggering the amp’s protection circuit. In my opinion, an output impedance of less than 1 ohm is a good standard for headphone amps because it prevents the headphone amp from significantly interacting with the headphones’ impedance in a way that alters the headphones’ frequency response.
. . . Brent Butterworth